Dinosaurs once roamed our planet. The diverse group of reptiles appeared during the Triassic period. Since their extinction, mankind has spent time, resources and technology to study these creatures. Different forms of fossils recovered from our planet have given a better view and understanding of how they survived and what led to their extinction. The creatures appeared around 231 and 243 million years ago. Because time has a way of disintegrating everything, most of the fossils and large sections of these beasts were lost. Luckily, on March 21, 2011, a miner at the Millennium Mine in Alberta, Canada unearthed a dinosaur. The remains had enough detail to be called a dinosaur mummy. After six years and 7000 hours of uncovering, archeologists were able to remove the dinosaur as a whole.
The fossil discovered is of a newfound species of nodosaur.
On March 21, 2011, in Alberta’s Millennium Mine, Shawn Funk was digging with a mechanical backhoe. As the digging continued, Funk hit something that appeared to be harder than a rock. Funk, who has had years of experience on the job, took a closer look and understood that it was not an ordinary piece of rock. What Funk had accidentally uncovered was a 2,500-pound dinosaur fossil. The fossil was intact and was covered with rock specimens.
The finding is so rare, it has been described as if humanity had won the lottery.
After being unearthed, the fossil was shipped to the museum in Alberta, where experts began analyzing the specimen. Upon a closer look, it was revealed that it was in fact the snout-to-hips portion of a nodosaur. Nodosaurs are armoured plant-eaters, a family of ankylosaurid dinosaurs, that existed during the Late Cretaceous Period.
After the arrival of the fossil, museum staff started working to extract without damaging the fossil. The process was of course time consuming and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology spent the next six years working to uncover the beast.
The museum staff spent 7,000 hours, spanned over a period of six years, to uncover the beast.
The work done by the museum staff was surely time consuming, since the fossil was embedded within the 2,500-pound (1,100 kg) lump of earth. When the dirt was completely removed, they learned that the never-before seen species had its skin, armor and even gut contents well preserved. Researchers concluded that the newly discovered fossil is the oldest dinosaur ever found in Alberta. The fossil still contained remnants of skin which was covering the bumpy armour plates along the dinosaur’s skull.
The well preserved fossil also allowed them to digitally recreate an image of what the dinosaur would have looked like.
The nodosaurs were around 18 feet (five metres) long on average, and weighed up to 3,000 pounds (1,300 kg). The beast also had two 20-inch-long spikes protruding from its shoulders. Researchers believe that the particular nodosaur was on a river’s edge drinking water, when a flood swept it down the river. The bacteria formed inside after its death must have kept it afloat, which could have caused the carcass to float out into the sea – eventually sinking to the bottom. The area which it was discovered was once a seabed and it’s no surprise for researchers to find the fossil at that particular place.
Today, thanks to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the whole world can take a look at the remains of what was once a majestic beast.
The story about the discovery of nodosaur will also be published in the June 2017 edition of National Geographic.
Sources: Washington Post, National Geographic.